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Pablo Mari permanent deal too sensible

Pablo Mari has stated that he wants to stay at Arsenal beyond his loan until the end of the season. Exercising the £8 million option to buy clause is almost too sensible.

When Arsenal signed Spanish centre-half Pablo Mari on a six-month loan deal in the January transfer window, no one really knew what to expect. A former Manchester City prospect who had spent the majority of his career in the second tier of Spanish football or more recently in Brazil, it was always going to be difficult to project his performances in England.

He was extremely well-regarded at Flamengo. Fans were distraught to see him leave after they won the Copa Libertadores in 2019. He arrived in north London with tentative expectation. There was hope that he could be a serviceable centre-back, but little more.

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In reality, that is all that Arsenal needed. Calum Chambers had recently torn his cruciate ligament, Shkodran Mustafi looked like he might be out with an ankle injury, while Dinos Mavropanos was loaned to Nuremberg and Rob Holding could not get or stay fit.

Mari has only played two matches before football was postponed due to COVID-19. He was superb against League One Portsmouth in the FA Cup, showing great progression and poise in possession.

He then struggled against West Ham United days later, the pace and physicality of Michail Antonio giving him a sharp and stark welcome to Premier League football. Arsenal kept clean sheets in both matches, it should be said, and against Portsmouth, he and David Luiz formed a superb partnership as the defensive anchor.

With the coronavirus disrupting all football and the subsequent decisions that would usually be made, Mari’s future is very much up in the air. But when speaking to Sky Sports on Saturday, the centre-back admitted that he would like to remain at the Emirates beyond his loan until the end of the season:

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“We played well. I have a lot of things to learn but I think my football can be really good with the Arsenal. I hope the club and I can go at the end (of the season) with good things to do the permanent transfer. We will see what happens because at the moment with the virus it is difficult.”

From the club’s perspective, making Mari’s temporary stay permanent is almost too sensible. He has only played two matches and the remainder of his performances upon the resumption of the league campaign will have an impact on the decision made, but the option-to-buy clause inserted in the deal is only £8 million.

Mari will turn 27 this summer. He is approaching the prime of his career, is a serviceable defender, and he is the only left-footed centre-back in the squad. While he will likely never be the starting solution at the position, especially once William Saliba returns from Saint-Etienne and another is likely added in the transfer window, for £8 million, signing a complementary reserve option who suits Mikel Arteta’s high-pressing style, is comfortable on the ball, and can act as a foil for the other central defenders in the squad is an extremely frugal and prudent deal.

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Fans may be wanting a splashier signing, a bigger name, a higher profile, but if Arsenal can get younger at the position and do it with a player they already know for extremely cheap, that is no bad thing. In fact, it is extremely sensible indeed.

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